Sawbuck Gamer

Rot Gut

Smuggler’s Blues

Rot Gut captures the Roaring Twenties in disappointing retro fashion.

By Jason Reich • September 17, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

The Roaring ’20s were the cat’s pajamas. Cities were booming, attitudes were changing, and a mad zeal for industry and entertainment gave rise to an entirely new social and artistic landscape. In that regard, Rot Gut is to the Jazz Age what Custer’s Revenge is to the settling of the American West.

Rot Gut casts you as an Eliot Ness type, on a mission to bust up a “legitimate business enterprise” after some mook gets the ol’ Chicago overcoat from a slug of bootleg giggle water. The game’s opening moments are encouraging. Fedora’d thugs patrol the docks, hands jammed into their pockets, the black-and-white backdrop punctuated by the deep red of spilled blood and the glowing ash of your hero’s cigarette. But what starts out noir-ish quickly becomes merely drab. The goons you encounter react as they would in any retro NES-style platformer, which is to say not at all. Enemies wander aimlessly back and forth, firing in regular, predictable bursts. Subsequent levels add no new challenges, and the game is a slog long before you reach the helpfully labeled “Distilling Factory” (a sign which seems like a huge misstep for crooks hoping to remain incognito).

To the game’s credit, real bootleggers actually used crates and barrels to ship their wares, so for once it makes sense to find cash by blasting open these ever-present items. The on-site vending machines that dispense ammo and health packs, however, are somewhat less historically accurate.

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175 Responses to “Smuggler’s Blues”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    “Hey Vinny, how come we’re hawkin’ this here bootleg giggle water and riskin’ the fuzz catching us?  These newfangled ‘Doctor LifeDeath(tm) First Aid Kit and Bullet Dispensers’ are where the REAL profit’s at!”

  2. ItsTheShadsy says:

    What other genre/setting mismatches are out there, waiting to be made? Maybe a Civil War top-down racing game!

    • Merve says:

      – An espionage rhythm game
      – A horror business simulator
      – A realistic military hidden object game
      – A Western puzzle game
      – A dating simulator set in space

      Wait, that last one actually exists. I forgot about Mass Effect. ;)

    • Girard says:

      -A shmup set at the zoo.
      -An light-gun-shooter biography of Mahatma Gandhi.
      -A space combat sim set in 1200AD.
      -A tamagotchi-style game set at an abbatoir.
      -A ball-and-paddle game set in the cretaceous.
      -Text adventure match-3 puzzler.
      -A party game set during the forced resettlement of the Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
      -Guitar simulator set during the life of Jesus.

    • Captain Internet says:

      – Singstar: Ephel Duath
      – Kinect Embroidery Studio
      – ‘The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race‘ Considered as a Real Time Strategy Game
      – ‘You Don’t Know “You Don’t Know Jack“‘
      – CSI: Atlantis

  3. ShrikeTheAvatar says:

    It sounds like there’s plenty not to like about this game, but complaining about bad AI in an NES-style platformer seems a bit silly.

  4. WorldCivilizations says:

    Gave it a shot. It’s looks nice enough, but yeah it got boring quick. It did, however, remind me of the game Trilby: The Art of Theft, which is a real gem (not sure if sawbuck has ever covered it). Shoot, I might just go back and play it again!

    • WorldCivilizations says:

      Another thing: anyone played FTL yet? I’m debating getting it – I love roguelikes (well mostly just DCSS) but I’ve heard good and bad things.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Trilby… One of Yahtzee’s games? I remember reading an article of his not long ago where he was talking about all the little steps that go into making a weapon feel sufficiently powerful. A shotgun, for example, involved good sound effects, the character firing the gun’s face should light up, enemies should be knocked back a sufficient distance, the spent shell casing should tinkle satisfyingly on the ground, etc etc. I was reminded of that essay as I played the game because say what you will about how boring it gets (and it gets boring), that shotgun felt like throwing lightning bolts around.

  5. hastapura says:

    Shit, cat. It don’t make a difference. Browser games produced enough fun to last me a lifetime.